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Young Workers' Perspectives on the Economy, Crisis, The Labour Market and Politics

Berry, CP and McDaniel, Sean (2018) Young Workers' Perspectives on the Economy, Crisis, The Labour Market and Politics. UNSPECIFIED. UNSPECIFIED.

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Abstract

With its tenth anniversary approaching, the 2008 global financial crisis has had significant ramifications in the UK that are still being felt today. Young people in particular have been among the groups most affected by the crisis, in part because they will live with the aftermath for longest, and in part because of the crisis’ specific impact on their socio-economic circumstances. Young people also appear to be on the front line of structural change within the economy, evidenced by a stratification within the labour market between secure, high-skilled employment (in industries such as finance, business services and advanced manufacturing) and precarious, low-skilled employment (in industries such as retail and care). With growing flexibilization, the ‘gig economy’ and rapidly advancing automation, it seems apparent that the world of work is changing, and as such a new generation of workers will be subject to labour market conditions unlike what past generations have experienced. In this Brief, we present new research on the perspectives of young people themselves on this transformation. Surprisingly, there have been relatively few attempts to understand the experiences, opinions and attitudes of younger people regarding the economic crisis and its aftermath. Utilising focus group research, we consider whether young people are content to work within ‘the new normal’, and whether they are willing to challenge prevailing economic circumstances in order to refashion the labour market. The research presented here is part of a larger study funded by Unions21 in conjunction with Slater and Gordon. The focus here is on attitudes to the economy, work and politics, but the larger project focuses also on attitudes to trade unionism and industrial relations. The research also seeks to differentiate between different types of young workers, particularly in terms of educational attainment, recognising the apparent ‘hollowing out’ of the UK labour market following the decline of intermediate-level employment in many industries.

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